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Information on the Shetland Sheepdog Dog Breed

Updated on October 3, 2012

Learn about Shetland Sheepdogs

The best dog I have ever owned was a Shetland Sheepdog. Her name was Cassie and she was super intelligent, eager to please, and extremely loyal. Not surprising since these are the common traits of a Shetland Sheepdog.


The Shetland Sheepdog, also known as a Sheltie, originates from the Shetland Isles of Scotland. Like many animals from the Shetland Isles (Shetland Sheep and Shetland Ponies, for example) the Shetland Sheepdog is a miniature version of a larger breed. It was developed from Collie-type dogs, such as the Border Collie, and strongly resembles the Rough Collie.

The Shetland Sheepdog was bred to herd the smaller livestock of the Shetland Isles. The coat of a Shetland Sheepdog consists of a short furry undercoat and a long straight outer coat, perfect for the harsh weather of the Shetland Isles. With my dog Cassie, I had to brush her regularly in order to prevent tangling and matting. I shaved her once but this does not help. The short furry undercoat was still in place and she ended up looking like one of the Shetland Sheep.

Cassie was a sable color with white and tan markings. She had a darker sable-colored back, like a saddle. This coloring was also on her ears, down her neck and back, and most of her tail. Her face and legs were tan. And she had a white ruff, white feet, and a white strip down the center of her nose. The Shetland Sheepdog also comes in black and blue merle, also with white and tan markings.

Like most Shetland Sheepdogs, Cassie had expressive almond-shaped eyes, small ears which were perked up and with the tips folding slightly forward, feathering on her feet, and a fluffy tail carried low. Unlike a Shetland Sheepdog, Cassie weighed about 35 pounds. The proper height and weight of a Shetland Sheepdog according to the standards of the American Kennel Club is 13-16 inches high and about 20 pounds in weight.

Cassie and other Shetland Sheepdogs need regular exercise. Cassie was my childhood dog, so we didn't do the standard dog walking. But we played outdoors a lot. Sometimes she would just tag along while I went out and played with my friends, and sometimes it would just be her and I playing fun games together. Cassie not only needed regular exercise, she also needed regular mental stimulation. I discovered right away that Cassie was eager to learn new things and she learned them very quickly. Teaching her to sit and stay only took a few minutes a day for less than a week. By the time she passed away, she knew over 30 different commands and over 100 words and phrases (her favorite words were 'food' and 'hungry').

While Cassie was loving, loyal, smart, and obedient, she had a few unpleasant traits which are common with most Shetland Sheepdogs. Cassie tended to bark a lot. And she could be destructive if she was bored. Also, Cassie tended to be shy with strangers. She never had any aggression issues with me, my friends, or my family. But she had been known to snap fearfully at strangers from time to time. Socialization was not a common term back when I was a girl. But now that we understand more about dogs, we know that it is possible for dogs like Cassie to overcome timidity with proper socialization.

Cassie got sick with distemper when she was young. This is a disease common with all dogs and can be prevented with vaccinations. This was her only serious health issue until she reached old age. However, the Shetland Sheepdog is prone to a number of health issues which are acquired genetically and are not preventable. These issues include Collie eye anomaly, progressive retinal atrophy, hip dysplasia, patellar luxation, Legg-Perthes disease, and ivermectin sensitivity.

While these health issues are common in the Shetland Sheepdog, you may be able to avoid them by doing proper research on the breeder. A responsible breeder will work extensively to make sure that they are not breeding dogs with genetic health issues. And a responsible breeder will do tests to make sure that the dogs they sell do not have evidence of these issues.

Despite Cassie's timidity and tendency to bark, she was the perfect dog for me. She was my absolute best friend growing up. Cassie was so loyal to me (and to me only) and she loved me no matter what. This was important during my school years where friendships were finicky and trying to fit in was difficult. Someday when it is time for me to get another dog, I plan on getting another Shetland Sheepdog from a dog rescue group. If you are considering getting a Shetland Sheepdog, be sure to get one from a responsible breeder or dog rescue group.

Great Shetland Sheepdog Stuff on Amazon


The image on the right artwork by Dawn Ross. The artwork is of Cassie, her beloved Shetland Sheepdog.

8.2"w x 10.5" h

Colored Pencil


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    • NatureByDawn LM profile image

      NatureByDawn LM 7 years ago

      @KellydeBorda: Aren't Sheltie's just the best! I really love Maya (Lab) and Sephi (Lab-Shep-Chow mix), the dogs I have now, but Cassie stands out as the best dog ever. Shhh, don't tell Maya and Sephi. I told them they were the best dogs ever. :)

    • KellydeBorda profile image

      KellydeBorda 7 years ago

      I've got a sable Sheltie too - Chance is going on 9 yrs old now, and is just a sweet old man!